You know I love quinoa. What’s not to love? It’s versatile, tasty and packed with nutrients. “When the nutrient composition of this food is analyzed in depth, the results are unusual and striking.” (source)
The government of Bolivia (supported by other Central and South American countries), wants to spread quinoa’s fame throughout the world. Their proposal to declare 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa” has been approved by the UN (FAO). So it seems we’ll be hearing more about my favourite little grain in the year ahead! And why not, with its “high nutritive value, impressive biodiversity, and an important role to play in the achievement of food security worldwide”. (source)
But today I was reminded about the impact of the luxury of eating exotic, imported foods like quinoa. This article claims that quinoa’s recent global popularity is having a negative effect on some of the people in its native lands. “The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper.”(source) Do you see the sad irony there?
As always, everything is more complicated than it seems at first glance. I am grateful that I have access to incredible foods from around the world. At the same time, I am ever more aware of the impact that my purchasing has on the planet and its people. I don’t pretend to understand the tension that exists between sustainable practice, supporting livelihoods, feeding greedy business, and maintaining healthy lifestyles. But I want to make a greater effort this year to eat closer to home and to be more conscious of everyone who was involved in getting the food to my plate.
Having said that, I will share with you my “Mexican” stuffed pepper recipe. These peppers are delicious and nutritious and way easier to make than they look. The recipe is also flexible. Sometimes I add corn, other times cabbage, other times green beans – whatever I need to use up, or whatever is in season! It also makes more quinoa hash than is necessary to fill the peppers, so I keep some of the Mexican quinoa to take for lunch. (Another principle I want to perfect this year: cook once, eat twice!)
I have served stuffed peppers with many things: a side salad, bread with cream cheese, flax crackers topped with avocado, and vegetable cruidite. Or, for Little Handsome, just plain quinoa with apple slices and carrots. And a healthy side dish of gratitude.
Mexican Stuffed Peppers
1 c. uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 c. water
1 c. vegetable or chicken stock (or more water)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, grated
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped or 1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. frozen corn kernels
handful spinach or other dark leafy greens, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste
3-4 bell peppers, cut in half, seeds removed
To serve: (optional)
2 T cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
goat cheese, crumbled
Instructions: Combine the quinoa, water and broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Saute onion, garlic and carrot in olive oil. Mix in tomatoes, black beans, corn, greens and quinoa. Heat through, and season with cumin, cayenne and S&P to taste. Cut bell peppers in half and remove seeds. Fill with quinoa mixture and bake at 180C for about 20 minutes. Top with any combination of green onion, cilantro and goat cheese. Enjoy!
I made up the recipe, but after the fact found one very similar to this it here. Looks like great minds think alike!